MU takes on elite competition in Minnesota

The Golden Eagles prepare to take on two former Final Four teams this coming weekend.

The Marquette women’s volleyball team has won every match during the spring season, but this weekend will be a test unlike any other it has faced this year.

The Golden Eagles travel to Minnesota for the Minneapolis Tournament, where they will face two teams that reached the Final Four last year in Minnesota and Texas, as well as North Dakota State.

Although this will be the biggest test of the spring for Marquette, the team feels they are up for the challenge.

“Just from a team standpoint, the confidence level is high as we get ready to go to Minnesota this weekend and play Minnesota, North Dakota State and Texas,” coach Bond Shymansky said. “You’ve got three matches in one day and two of those matches are against Final Four teams.”

The Golden Eagles have held serve, winning all of the matches they were expected to win, but for the first time this semester, they will take on the underdog role.

“We know that people perceive us as the underdog,” senior middle hitter Rabbecka Gonyo said. “We  want to come in and sneak attack people because we know we’re capable.”

Marquette will have to play its best to keep up with teams this tournament.

“That’s where we are trying to raise our expectation level, and our consistency level to be able to compete with teams like that,” Shymansky said. “That’s really important so we’ll work hard to do that this week and hopefully finish on a high note.”

One of Marquette’s opponents this weekend, Texas, was the national runner-up last fall. Taking a two-set lead over two-time reigning champ and undefeated Penn State, the Longhorns weren’t able to hold on, losing the fifth set 15-13. Texas finished the year at 29-2 and ranked second in the AVCA Coaches Poll.

“Everyone on our team, including Bond Shymansky, is focusing on really believing that we can do it,” freshman middle hitter Carol Henney said. “So it’s really just about knowing we can do it, then going out and actually doing it.”

Things won’t get much easier against Minnesota. The Gophers reached the national semifinals before falling to Texas last season and have been plowing their way through tournaments this spring season.

Minnesota went 4-0 to win the Iowa State tournament, not even dropping one set. The weekend before, the Gophers won a tournament at Arizona State, also without dropping a set.

“It’s not intimidating at all playing against them,” Henney said. “It’s really exciting to know that we’re playing two of the best teams in the nation in Minnesota and Texas. They are a good way to prove ourselves. It’s a great way to finish out the spring season to let us know where we’re at.”

North Dakota State will be Marquette’s final opponent. The Bison finished last season at 23-4, winning the Summit League Conference with a perfect 18-0 record. They barely missed out on the tournament, losing to IPFW in the conference tournament.